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What Are the Total Cholesterol Levels? Ranges and Meanings

Total Cholesterol: 180mg/dL

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on May 31, 2023
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6 min

Monitoring your total cholesterol is important for staying healthy in the long term. A simple blood test will determine the results, but what does a reading of 180mg/dL mean? We explain what measurement is normal for your total cholesterol levels and how to maintain it.

What Does a Total Cholesterol 180mg/dL Mean? 

A total cholesterol reading of 180mg/dL means low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein are balanced in your body. 

Your HDL “good” cholesterol should be above 601, while LDL “bad” cholesterol should be below 100. This balance stops fatty deposits from clogging arteries and vessels. The body needs to remove waste efficiently while maintaining healthy cholesterol numbers.

Just be aware that there are no symptoms of high cholesterol levels. People who don’t get their cholesterol checked regularly may have more heart-related risks. Consult with your doctor about staying within the normal range of total cholesterol. 

Total cholesterol levelsmg/dL
Normal✅<199
Elevated ❌200–239
High ❌240<

How Often Is It Recommended to Measure Total Cholesterol Levels?

Most healthy adults with normal cholesterol levels should get their total cholesterol checked every 4–6 years2. People with a family history of high cholesterol should check it more often, for example, once a year.

Children and adolescents should get a cholesterol test once between ages 9–11 and again between ages 17–21. Younger adults who have diabetes or obesity need to get checked more than once a year to prevent heart disease and high blood pressure. 

You need to get tests more frequently if you have: 

  • Comorbidity
  • High blood pressure 
  • Smoking habits
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity 
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Lupus
  • HIV/AIDS

For more guidance on cholesterol monitoring, consider trying the Cardi Health app. You can record your total cholesterol levels over time to see how they change. This information is great for sharing with your doctor or other medical professionals. 

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How to Know if My Cholesterol Levels Are at an Optimal Level? 

You can determine optimal cholesterol levels by taking a lipid profile test3. Doctors usually monitor your blood to check the balance of HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

People can also get tests to use at home whenever they need. This is great for keeping their cholesterol numbers in check throughout the year. Not checking as often as you should promotes risk factors like heart disease, stroke, and coronary artery disease.

Here are some causes of unbalanced blood cholesterol: 

  • Not exercising enough 
  • Being overweight 
  • Eating processed foods 
  • Drinking too much alcohol 
  • Smoking regularly 
  • Certain medications
  • Following a high-sugar diet

How to Maintain Normal Total Cholesterol Levels?  

There are many ways you can maintain good blood cholesterol and stay at the 180mg/dL reading. You need to make simple lifestyle changes that keep LDL cholesterol balanced and prevent problems like heart disease or peripheral arterial disease.

Below are 5 things you can do to maintain total cholesterol 180mg/dL. 

#1 Consume enough soluble fiber 

Consuming enough dietary fiber decreases hepatic absorption4 and stops your body from storing too much cholesterol. This allows high-density lipoprotein to remove LDL cholesterol when necessary and regulate other forms of fat in your bloodstream. 

Fiber also reduces the amount of bile salts in the intestine. Your body will then use blood cholesterol to make more of these liver bile salts. Aim to consume around 25–30 grams5 of soluble or insoluble fiber a day to lower your overall cholesterol level. 

Some great fiber-rich foods to eat comprise:

  • Broccoli 
  • Dried fruit 
  • Avocado 
  • Pear 
  • Spinach
  • Apple 
  • Orange 
  • Strawberry 
  • Carrot
  • Almonds
  • Edamame 

Also if you feel that you are not consuming enough fibers we would recommend taking fiber supplements

#2 Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids 

Research6 shows that omega-3 consumption can lower high cholesterol and prevent heart disease. This is because the fatty acids reduce blood triglyceride levels. People should get 1,100–1,600 milligrams7 of omega-3 a day to keep their heart healthy. 

You could take designated supplements or consume more omega-3 foods. Some of these might be mackerel, herring, salmon, cod liver oil, oysters, walnuts, and chia seeds. Fish is also great for maintaining your 180mg/dL reading in the long term. 

#3 Reduce bad habits 

There are plenty of bad habits that contribute to high cholesterol levels. 

Smoking is one habit that damages your long-term health. This is because tobacco encourages LDL cholesterol to cling to artery walls8 and clog them. Over time, these arteries will constrict and increase the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood. 

Consuming too much saturated and trans fat9 is another bad habit. These fats are huge risk factors for cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. Processed foods like cakes, biscuits, cured meats, sausages, and puddings all contain saturated fat. 

A high alcohol intake could also be a major risk factor for high LDL levels. The alcohol breaks down into triglycerides10 and increases total cholesterol in your blood. You should only limit yourself to one drink a day11 to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. 

#4 Stay active

Regular exercise stimulates enzymes12 that help HDL cholesterol to remove fatty deposits. Bad cholesterol is also turned into bile after digestion and excreted. This means that going out for a simple walk could protect your long-term heart health. 

Consider going for easy morning runs or quick jogging sessions. You could even perform strength training at the gym to get your body moving. Aim to get at least 150 minutes13 of moderate exercise a week to maintain a healthy 180mg/dL reading. 

Research shows that not moving around can promote obesity, high blood pressure, and excess body fat. Any type of visceral fat will contribute to low HDL cholesterol and a higher risk of disease. 

#5 Try to maintain a healthy weight 

You can maintain a 180mg/dL reading by achieving a healthy weight14.

Cholesterol levels tend to increase when you have too much body fat. Being active and eating well-balanced foods could reduce your overall fat percentage. Even simple things like measuring meal portions can stop you from consuming too many calories. 

Consider drinking more water to prevent weight gain. Drinking at least 9–12 cups of water daily will keep the cholesterol in check. Also, drinking enough water will keep your stomach full, which leads to reduced hunger pangs.

Other Ways to Maintain Normal Total Cholesterol Levels

Here are some other ways you can maintain the 180mg/dL reading: 

  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Drink more water 
  • Follow a balanced diet 
  • Take fiber supplements
  • Choose lean meats
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables
  • Don’t use refined oils 
  • Consult with your doctor
  • Get moving during the day 
From what age is it recommended to check total cholesterol levels?

Children between the age of 9–1115 can get cholesterol tests. This may only be necessary for those with other risk factors like obesity and type 2 diabetes. Younger adults with a family history of bad cholesterol can also get checked regularly when growing up. 

Can total cholesterol levels be too low?

There’s a chance people can get low cholesterol levels16 from severe depression, anxiety disorders, or cancer. Although this isn’t common, it may still cause serious health complications like preterm birth, hemorrhagic stroke, and heart attacks. 

References
  1. Cleveland Clinic Team. (2022). Cholesterol Numbers and What They Mean. An article review. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11920-cholesterol-numbers-what-do-they-mean 
  2. Get a Cholesterol Test. (2022). A medical article. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/cholesterol_screening.htm
  3. Cleveland Clinic medical professionals. (2021). Lipid Panel. A review article. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/17176-lipid-panel 
  4. Lisa Brown, Bernard Rosner, Walter W Willett, Frank M Sacks. (1999). Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis. Journal Article. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/1/30/4694117 
  5. Diane Quagliani, MBA, RDN, LDN, Patricia Felt-Gunderson, MS, RDN, LDN. (2016). Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit. Medical Research. Sage Journals: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1559827615588079 
  6. J. Chris Bradberry, PharmD and Daniel E. Hilleman, PharmD. (2013). Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Therapies. Journal Article. National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3875260/ 
  7. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office. (2018). Omega-3 Fatty Acids. National Institutes of Health: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ 
  8. Adam D. Gepner, MD. Megan E. Piper, Ph.D., Heather M. Johnson, MD, Michael C.Fiore, MD, MPH, Timothy B. Baker, Ph.D., James H. Stein, MD. (2010). Effects of smoking and smoking cessation on lipids and lipoproteins: Outcomes from a randomized clinical trial. Clinical Investigation. ScienceDirect: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002870310008926?via%3Dihub
  9. Patty W. Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B. Hu, Ronald M. Krauss. (2010). Saturated Fatty Acids and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Modulation by Replacement Nutrients. Medical research. SpringerLink: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11883-010-0131-6 
  10. Simona Minzer, Ricardo Arturo Losno, Rosa Casas. (2020). The Effect of Alcohol on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Is There New Information? A Review Article. MDPI: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/4/912 
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Team. (2022). Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. A Blog Article. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm# 
  12. S. Mann, C. Beedie, A. Jimenez. (2013).  Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and Recommendations. A Review Article. Springerlink: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-013-0110-5 
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Team. (2022). How much physical activity do adults need? A Blog Article. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm# 
  14. National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Team. Why Is a Healthy Weight Important? A Blog Article. National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/index.htm# 
  15. Bethesda, MD. High Cholesterol in Children and Teens. A Blog Article. MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/highcholesterolinchildrenandteens.html 
  16. National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Team. (2022). Causes and Risk Factors. A Blog Article. National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/blood-cholesterol/causes 
HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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